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Amid coronavirus panic buying, California deputies tell shoppers: Don’t call 911 over line-cutting

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SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (KTLA) – The coronavirus pandemic is prompting more people to “panic buy” household essentials, leaving shelves empty and creating long lines at markets across Southern California.

But as frenzied shoppers rushed to replenish their own stores of toilet paper, bottled water and cleaning supplies on Thursday, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station offered this reminder: Do not dial them for help over minor shopping-related grievances.

“Please don’t call 911 because people are cutting in front of you in line at the store. It ties up valuable resources for real emergencies!” the agency said on Twitter.

The message came after someone called 911 Thursday to report a huge fight at a local Costco involving more than 1,000 people over toilet paper and bottled water — a claim that turned out to be false, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

“All is calm over at Costco,” the agency said in another tweet. “Yes, there are long lines but contrary to what a 911 caller said, there are no fights.”

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This wasn’t the first time law enforcement responded to a Costco in Southern California.

Last week, deputies from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department responded to the location in Chino Hills after customers apparently became unruly when the store ran out of bottled water and toilet paper. As in Thursday’s incident, deputies found no evidence of any physical altercations.

The rush on certain items, however — like paper goods and hand sanitizer — has led to purchasing limits at some stores like Costco, Target, Walmart and others.

The Department of Homeland Security recommends that people have a two-week supply of food and water to prepare for a pandemic. DHS also advises having a continuous supply of prescription drugs on hand, as well as nonprescription drugs like pain relievers, cough and cold medicines and stomach remedies.

The American Red Cross also advises a two-weeks supply of food and water, but also has a more comprehensive list of what people should have on hand to prepare for a disaster.

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